The University of Michigan is seeking community input on a statement of principles that reaffirms and reemphasizes its commitment to diversity of thought and freedom of expression.
Tim Lynch, vice president and general counsel, outlined the process for capturing community feedback on the draft principles during the Oct. 19 Board of Regents meeting on the UM-Flint campus.
“Having a clear statement of this institution’s principles on diversity of thought and freedom of expression is more important than ever,” Lynch said. “The principles on which we are seeking community input expand upon this institution’s commitment to freedom of speech as articulated in our 1988 policy, which remains in effect.”
The draft principles say, in part, “As a great public university guided by the letter and spirit of the First Amendment, we enthusiastically embrace our responsibility to stimulate and support diverse ideas and viewpoints in our classrooms and labs, lecture series and symposia, studios and performance halls, and among our entire community of students, teachers, researchers, and staff. When we disagree on matters of intellectual significance, we make space for contesting perspectives.”
Lynch explained that the draft principles were developed by and reflect the deep expertise of a distinguished faculty committee and reflect input from additional members of the faculty and university leaders. Lynch led the committee’s work over the summer.
Michelle Adams, the Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law and a committee member, said freedom of expression “is a bedrock principle, one that is essential to the core educational mission of the university and a well-functioning democracy.”
The draft principles also recognize that “free inquiry and expression can offend.”
“Every member of our academic community should expect to confront ideas that differ from their own, however uncomfortable those encounters may be. We commit to these principles because they help us to create, discover and fulfill our vital mission,” the draft statement says in conclusion.
Lynch described a three-part process that would allow the university to have a renewed commitment to freedom of speech in place by the start of the 2024-25 academic year.
The first phase was the work of the faculty committee to draft the principles over the summer.
The second phase will be a period of gathering community feedback through an online survey that will be open through Nov. 2. Lynch said members of the Board of Regents and President Santa J. Ono would consider the feedback as part of their deliberations on the principles.
The final phase will be the appointment of a second committee — made up of faculty members, students and staff — charged with examining the extent to which the university community is living up to the principles.
This group also would make specific recommendations on what the university can and should be doing better. This phase of work would be completed by the end of the academic year, giving the university time over the summer of 2024 to make any further adjustments before the start of the new academic year in August.
Lynch said these faculty members have been instrumental in the development of the draft statement of principles over the past several months:
- Michelle Adams, Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law and professor of law in the Law School. Her research centers on race discrimination, school desegregation, affirmative action and housing law.
- Kristina Daugirdas, professor of law and associate dean for academic programming in the Law School. She teaches and writes in the fields of international law and institutions, and U.S. foreign relations law.
- Don Herzog, Edson R. Sunderland Professor of Law and professor of law in the Law School, and professor of political science in LSA. His main teaching interests are political, moral, legal and social theory, constitutional interpretation, torts and the First Amendment.
- Gabe Mendlow, professor of law in the Law School, and professor of philosophy in LSA. He teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, moral philosophy, political philosophy and the philosophy of law.
- Sekhar Sripada, Theophile Raphael Research Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and professor of psychiatry in the Medical School, and professor of philosophy and adjunct professor of psychology in LSA. His research investigates neurocognition, executive functions, and regulatory control across a range of psychiatric disorders.